Border Crossing Tijuana: Help with Gas and Turn Around - K-Bikes.com - Excellence in Motion
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old Aug 31st, 2008, 9:31 am Thread Starter
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Border Crossing Tijuana: Help with Gas and Turn Around

Dear all,

I am planning an Iron Butt Border-to-Border ride, from Mexico to Canada, hopefully next spring. My goal is to do it in less than 24 hours, which requires some planning to avoid rush hour traffic in the large cities along the route. I plan to take I-5 the entire way and know the route very well. I have driven between Southern California and British Columbia many times. I grew up in Southern California, where I live now, and lived for 6 years in BC, crossing the Canadian border many times.

I don't know anything about Tijuana, the border crossings in and out of Mexico, or how to find gas stations there. I have read a lot about U.S. citizens crossing into Mexico for cheap gas, then crossing back, which is what I want to do. I want to survive the brief trip into Mexico. My GT is valuable, and my hide is more valuable, so I don't want to get lost in an unsafe area of the city.

The plan is to cross out of Tijuana into San Ysidro no later than 4:00 AM, in order to get north of Los Angeles before traffic gets heavy.

THE PROBLEM:
I need an accurately dated and time-stamped receipt from Mexico, which starts the 24-hour clock. I assume that the best way to get one is to stop at a 24-hour gas station in Tijuana and buy a little gas using a US-based credit card. A convenience store is okay, too, as long as I can get that receipt.

I have looked on the web for information about how to find gas in Tijuana, so I can map my route, but have had no luck at all. There are lots of news reports, but no practical info.

I assume that I need to buy one day's worth of Mexican insurance. I read that you can buy it from automated kiosks in convenience stores near the border.

If you know where to find safe routes in Tijuana at the wee hours of the morning to get gas and return to the U.S., I would appreciate it, plus any other advice you have to offer.

Last edited by XMagnaRider; Aug 31st, 2008 at 9:39 am.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old Sep 5th, 2008, 9:12 am
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FYI, around 4am, the border crossing INTO the US FROM mexico gets PACKED. That's around rush-hour for all the cross-border workers who work in the SD area. Last 3 times I've been down there, that's what has happened.

Things may have changed now, but I'm not too sure.

Will a time stamped sheet from the border patrol office work?

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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old Sep 5th, 2008, 9:37 am
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I hope you can ride and shoot at the same time than go for it. If you start on this side of the fence they may not kill you for your bike. Really , what the hell do you want to go into TJ for.

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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old Sep 5th, 2008, 10:46 am Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aznatama
FYI, around 4am, the border crossing INTO the US FROM mexico gets PACKED. That's around rush-hour for all the cross-border workers who work in the SD area. Last 3 times I've been down there, that's what has happened.

Things may have changed now, but I'm not too sure.

Will a time stamped sheet from the border patrol office work?
Quote:
Originally Posted by KKM
I hope you can ride and shoot at the same time than go for it. If you start on this side of the fence they may not kill you for your bike. Really , what the hell do you want to go into TJ for.
Thanks for your comments. I was beginning to think that nobody would notice my original post.

I especially appreciate the info about the 4 AM rush hour. I would have never thought of that until it was too late. A delay like that might really cause problems.

I have learned a little more since my original post:

A few miles inland is a second 24-hour border crossing into Tijuana called Otay Mesa. In general, it is less crowded than the large crossing at the I-5 (San Ysidro). There is a 24-hour PEMEX gas station and an associated AM/PM mini mart on Bellas Artes Boulevard, which is the first exit after entering into Tijuana. It is only two blocks from the border.

--> After many hours of Internet research, I still don't know the exact location of that PEMEX station. I have looked at the intersection using Google Earth, but still can't figure out which building it is. Any help would be much appreciated.

One hopes that it is safe to take a confined road two blocks to a gas station, and then directly back to the border. I may ask a friend trail me in his car.

I will be in San Diego for a conference next month. I may take the opportunity to scout out the border crossing and gas station during daylight hours. If it looks too scary inside TJ, I can always make a U-turn right at the border.

To answer your questions:

I called Customs and Border Patrol, and they told me that there is no easy way to get a date/time stamp as you cross in. It isn't part of the normal border entry procedure for U.S. citizens. You can ask them to stamp your passport, but they may refuse. If they stamp your passport, I don't know if the stamp has the date and time included.

I agree with KKM's comment about ride and shoot. That is why I have been doing so much research. I like my bike, and my skin, and I want both intact when I'm done. Hopefully my original post at the top explains my goal clearly enough. I can't explain WHY I feel compelled to do it, except that it is a challenge that matches my interests.
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old Sep 5th, 2008, 5:19 pm
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I used to live in TJ for about 2 years while awaiting my fiance's visa... I lived quite close to the San Ysidro border crossing. While what the aznatama says is true about rush hour at 4am, motorcyclists have no problem crossing in about 5 min. I used to cross every morning on my 'Busa... no problem. You don't even have to split lanes.

There are special lanes called SENTRI... you access them from Padre Kino Ave. They are for special SENTRI pass holders, however, it is common practice and encouraged by the border agents for motorcyclists to use these lanes to bypass the regular car lanes.

Once you get about 50 yards from the border, you can change lanes from the SENTRI lanes to regular lanes. (You can't actually cross the border from the SENTRI lanes unless you have a SENTRI pass)

There are several Pemex stations close to the San Ysidro crossing that you can fillup at.

The Otay Mesa border crossing gets just as congested during that hour of the morning, but it is not as easily navigable for motorcyclists.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old Nov 12th, 2008, 4:52 am Thread Starter
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This is just a follow up to my previous messages, to keep the thread going.

* Dantes gave me detailed routes that use the San Ysidro crossing. In short, they show a quick and easy route along Paseo de los Heroes, to a 24-hour McDonalds at the intersection with Puente Independencia, 270 degrees around the circle to Puente Independencia, 270 degrees around a circle at Ave Paseo Tijuana, and take the Sentri lanes to the US (cross left into the regular lanes at the appropriate time). Thanks very much to Dantes for the info. It is obvious that a lot of work went into them.

* I was in San Diego for meetings a couple weeks ago. I spoke with the hotel concierge and other staff. I also spoke with some law enforcement people I know, who have direct knowledge of the border situation. Universally, they warned me NOT to cross into Mexico, not even for a quick scouting expedition. The message was the same. Lots of people cross in and out every day, and the likelihood of something happening is very remote, but IF something were to happen, it would be very very bad. It is dangerous there, with high crime and murder rates, and there is a significant problem with police corruption. If the police pull you over, you're in serious trouble. My law enforcement friends told me that I (and my expensive motorcycle) would be noticed the instant I crossed into Mexico and marked as a potential target accordingly. I wish I could share more about them and their credentials, but all I can say is that they are highly placed, very knowledgeable, and I trust them.

* After the meetings broke up, I rode down to San Ysidro without crossing into Mexico. It was a Thursday afternoon around 4:30 PM. Traffic going in and out of the border was surprisingly light. I explored the border area around the crossing. It was eerie. There were many border protection SUVs and pickups constantly patrolling the area. The fence is large, and there is a plowed dirt buffer next to it. The beach park was closed.

* San Ysidro itself was fairly busy, and there was plenty of traffic on the main roads around the shopping centers.

* If you want to buy Mexico vehicle insurance, it costs around $15 for a 24 hour policy for my K1200GT (liability only, the minimum required). Take the next-to-last exit (San Ysidro Blvd.) and you will see several drive-through insurance vendors at the end of the exit ramp. The one across the street on the right is open 24 hours. I asked at three different vendors, and the prices were nearly identical.

* The southbound onramp onto I-5 from Camino de la Plaza leads directly into Mexico. No turning around. I wonder if it is sufficient to have someone witness/photo you getting on there, turning around at the first opportunity in Mexico, and then meeting you at the first exit from Mexico?

* Camino de la Plaza crosses over I-5. Taxis are lined up on the bridge, near the crest, with a view of the border crossing. It says no parking, but I pulled in behind a taxi and stopped to take a look at the crossing itself. Not much to report there. Cars go in and out.

* You can turn right from Camino de la Plaza onto the end of San Ysidro Rd. A main terminal is at the end (no unauthorized vehicles) for the pedestrian border crossing. There are many busses there as well. You can turn left onto Rail Court Rd. where there is a mini shopping center. I note that the first exit from Mexico comes into there and I saw cars coming in. It appears that you must cross into the U.S. on the right side of the border crossing if you want to make that exit. Otherwise, you will be forced onto I-5 and have to take the second exit at San Ysidro Blvd. (I am thinking about a possible witness who watches me cross back into the U.S.)

* Next, I rode over to the Otay Mesa crossing. I took the 905. It is freeway for only two miles or so. After that, it turns into a four lane highway (two lanes in each direction, sometimes three lanes). There was a lot of traffic on the highway, and many heavy trucks. It was slow going at 5:30 in the afternoon, even on a motorcycle, splitting lanes. There are many traffic signals, and they are slow. Traffic may be lighter in the wee hours of the night, but I wouldn't count on it. The crossing itself was not very interesting - cars go in and out. It was not very busy. My guess is that it took me 20 minutes to get from Otay Mesa crossing to get onto the I-5.

Not much else to say. I am going to ask the Iron Butt association if it is sufficient to have a witness see you cross into Mexico at the last onramp, and then witness again as soon you cross back. That way, I can arrange to turn around inside Mexico at the first opportunity without stopping. It seems like the safest approach.

I am planning a SaddleSore 1000 on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I am still deciding on a route and looking for advice. My goal is to see whether I have the stamina and discipline for the long ride, and to determine what issues I may encounter. There is no guarantee that I will complete the ride - I will stop at a motel if I am tired or unsafe, or just plain too uncomfortable. For more discussion about my SS1000 plans, see the thread at:

http://www.bmwlt.com/forums/showthread.php?t=42120

Cheers,

XMR
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old Nov 12th, 2008, 4:55 am Thread Starter
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Here are the detailed maps provided by Dantes, showing a suggested route into and out of Tijuana via the San Ysidro (I-5) crossing. I cannot express my thanks enough for his efforts. I want to share them with others who are thinking about the same B2B ride, or other similar activities.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old Nov 12th, 2008, 2:09 pm
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I can verify that the McD's shown gives a good receipt, as does the Pemex station just inside the Otay Mesa crossing.

I started my B2B at 3 a.m. and had no trouble going into Otay Mesa, getting my receipt, and then heading across west and out through the I-5 crossing. I wanted to do my ride entirely on I-5, but that's not strictly necessary.

I was also worried about good receipts and getting turned around down there. So I got to San Ysidro early, dumped my stuff in a motel, then went down in the afternoon and did the crossing in the daylight as practice. That's when I verified that both receipts were good. I went back to the motel, had dinner, and slept.

When I started the official ride at 3 a.m. I knew exactly where I was going and got in and out very quickly.

I don't think you can have someone witness you go in and come right back out. Just get the receipt and get on your way.

I stuck with the Pemex in Otay Mesa because it seemed less busy even in the wee hours, plus I could see the bike for the whole two minutes that I walked inside to get the receipt.

As far as TJ goes realize that it's not the US and you are a bigger target, so pay attention, be smart, and you'll be fine.

For my ride up I-5 I set the cruise at 80-90, depending on prevailing traffic and the local speed limit. Gas stops were quick, maybe 5-10 minutes each. I had one 1/2 hour sit-down meal in Yreka, otherwise the wheels were moving the whole time. I reached the Canadian border just before midnight with 1420 miles in 21 hours. The biggest problem I had was finding a valid receipt up in BC, and I eventually settled on an ATM machine.

I really need to do that B2B2B ride one day . . .

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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old Nov 12th, 2008, 9:41 pm Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meese
I can verify that the McD's shown gives a good receipt, as does the Pemex station just inside the Otay Mesa crossing.

I started my B2B at 3 a.m. and had no trouble going into Otay Mesa, getting my receipt, and then heading across west and out through the I-5 crossing. I wanted to do my ride entirely on I-5, but that's not strictly necessary.

I was also worried about good receipts and getting turned around down there. So I got to San Ysidro early, dumped my stuff in a motel, then went down in the afternoon and did the crossing in the daylight as practice. That's when I verified that both receipts were good. I went back to the motel, had dinner, and slept.

When I started the official ride at 3 a.m. I knew exactly where I was going and got in and out very quickly.

I don't think you can have someone witness you go in and come right back out. Just get the receipt and get on your way.

I stuck with the Pemex in Otay Mesa because it seemed less busy even in the wee hours, plus I could see the bike for the whole two minutes that I walked inside to get the receipt.

As far as TJ goes realize that it's not the US and you are a bigger target, so pay attention, be smart, and you'll be fine.

For my ride up I-5 I set the cruise at 80-90, depending on prevailing traffic and the local speed limit. Gas stops were quick, maybe 5-10 minutes each. I had one 1/2 hour sit-down meal in Yreka, otherwise the wheels were moving the whole time. I reached the Canadian border just before midnight with 1420 miles in 21 hours. The biggest problem I had was finding a valid receipt up in BC, and I eventually settled on an ATM machine.

I really need to do that B2B2B ride one day . . .
When was the last time you were there? Could the security situation have changed since then?
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old Dec 14th, 2008, 9:20 pm
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Just keep your eyes open

Magna,

I've been through T.J. many, many times with my various bikes on my way down to see my Dad, who retired to Ensenada 16 years ago. My wife and I rode down to T.J. last year to give out Christmas gifts on my Yellow/Blk K12S. We couldn't have been more conspicuous and we crossed at San Ysidro and back at Otay Mesa, no problems!

I'm an LEO and feel naked going down there without my Glock, but so far, thank God, I've had no trouble and no hassles.

If you stick to the tourist oriented businesses and routes, you improve your chances dramatically of no drama.

Personally, I believe it is risker to ride the I-5 through L.A. than to stop at MickeyD's in T.J.

Vaya con Dios,

Keep a high visual horizon,
Bob

Last edited by MadMax; Dec 14th, 2008 at 9:21 pm. Reason: double signature
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